A to Z Challenge: Acting

Acting is quite tricky to catch when editing.

“Now what is this silly girl talking about?” you might ask.

Well… your characters, of course. For your story to work, your characters need to be realistic. By realistic, I mean they must act in a way that people do.

Which is a fun concept, because every person is different.

So how can I say characters must act like people?

Easy. People (usually the sanish ones, but the less than sane ones too) have motivations, dreams, desires. They have personalities. Complex personalities. Including quirks. And they are ruled by them.

So. Take this guy (and yes, I am aware that this will be a cliche fest): 

Image by extranoise

Let’s call him Jack. Jack looks like a really nice person, and he is. He has some issues about his image (which is silly, because he’s actually a good looking boy) from when he was a small boy wearing specs. He’s sensitive and caring and generally speaking an affable guy. Everyone’s best friend. Including Jill’s: 

Image by tibchris

He’s not going to snark. He’s not going to be a badass dude waiting to knife you in the back. So anything that he does and says that goes against that, has to be fixed when you edit. 

Except, of course, it happens around this guy. 

Image by xlordashx

 See this badboy (let’s call him Stephan) is cheating on Jill. And everyone knows. Except Jill, because she refuses to believe it. So if Jack didn’t have a negative reaction around Stephan, he wouldn’t be acting to character either.

So if you were to write Jack’s story, it’s vitally important that everything that Jack does and says fits with who he is. Even the things that look like they’re out of character until closer inspection.

Look out for these: 

1) Moments sticking out because it isn’t gelling with the rest of the scene.

2) Dialogue that doesn’t suit the character.

3) A supposedly sane character looking bipolar because there’s no constancy to the way he acts.

Do you get your characters to act true to who they are? What shows you that your character’s “acting” is off?

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50 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: Acting

  1. Great post! This can be hard to keep straight sometimes. I had a rather uncouth and uneducated character spout out a philosophical, large worded line once and just shook my head when I realized it. It was definitely a slap yourself on the forehead kind of moment. *grin*

    Checking in from the A to Z challenge. Great 'A' post, lady!

  2. So much when I write the characters take over, and they let me know if something's not right. If a scene stalls or is really tough to write, it's usually because it's not right for that character. Great post.

  3. One thing I've noticed in some YA novels, is sometimes the 17-year-old protagonist ends up spouting off a diatribe fit for a 40-year-old. Eventually, the get back into character and finish off the novel as a 17-year-old again. I find situations like this hilarious!

    Nicely done!

  4. Good post for making me think. Another stumbling block is setting your novel in a time-period and making sure that the slang they use (or expressions) is right for that time.

  5. Yeah those moments can be really funny, if the scene's not that way for a reason. Like my teens act really grown up most of the time, but for a very valid reason. 🙂

  6. Yeah slang is definitely something I get stuck on when I write my Western. So much so that I gave up and am writing it in Queens English until I can focus on only the dialogue.

  7. You make a very good point with this post. And if you do have a character act, well, out of character (!) you need to make sure you explain it somewhere along the line.

  8. This is a great post about consistency. There are times when, I believe, characters act–well–out of character. But it's usually driven by something in the story and within themselves that pushes them deeper into the arc.

  9. It's so great to visit with you!!! Missed you, girl. GREAT A-Z post. It is aggravating to read a book where a character does something totally off the wall for no reason.

  10. Just yesterday I was talking about characters and consistency in terms of speech patterns and how it all fits into dialogue. I did mention that readers would think characters were unstable if their reactions and normal speech patters are too way off.

  11. Love the post. I'm not a writer myself, but as a reader I have had times were characters don't act the way they are portrayed and it drives me nuts. Glad the majority out there do try not to do this.

  12. Great post! And such good points. I think this is one of the hardest things about writing. It's so easy to spot someone acting out of character when reading or watching someone else's work, but very hard with our own.

  13. Definitely. Characters can and do sometimes act weird, but if there's a really good reason for it, and it's handled well, it can lead readers deeper into the story.

    But like you said, it has to be explained.

  14. Missed you too.

    I find it just as aggravating. That's probably why I hit on it first when I crit other people's stories. Can't see the errors in my own work. Which would be why I have so many CPs. 🙂

  15. Yep. I actually went back to my WiP and paid some closer attention to how my characters act and found that some errors had slipped in while I was looking somewhere else. 🙂

  16. That almost happened to me too, because two of my characters are really close. Blood brothers. So they can sometimes sound really similar. Their motivations are completely different though.

    So it's really important for me to pay attention when I work with both of them in one scene.

  17. Yeah sometimes when I find errors like this in a book, I wonder how the author got past every level to publishing and still got the book published in its present state. :-/

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